In 1978, at the age of 7, I was kidnapped and tortured for a year, taken by my father from my home in Houston, Texas to the northern mountains of Greece.
Born of my mother's love and my father's fury, I was his proof to the world that he could succeed at something. But the boy I was died in those mountains. I'll never know what life he would have had.
I began writing my first book, "Scarred: A Memoir" in my 30s. It was originally a long letter to my then soon-to-be ex-wife. During my reflective composition, a sub-text began emerging between the lines. In my search for answers as to how a union that began with so much love could end with so much derision and deception, I became besieged by submerged memories. I felt so much that I felt nothing. So, I put pen to paper and came alive.
I started down the road of the lazy revolutionary equipping myself with the raw unvarnished, unfiltered emotions of the heart. I challenged my memory's eye to paint an accurate portrait of picturesque times, perilous travails, peculiar sounds and putrid smells in my hunt for ephemeral epiphanies.
There were glorious weeks when I was able to drown my punctuated self-loathing with composed serenity and hourly doses of penitent penmanship, writing for 96 hours straight. I embraced these marathon sessions. As a revolutionary I could indulge all my fantasies.
But in my eagerness to free myself, I discovered that in any revolution there are days of sheer boredom and days of colorful bedlam as the writer stares at the blank pages of unanswered questions. There were moments of panic and others of poetry released in ecstatic revelations.
So I began to write to bury my pain. My digging unearthed an echo of the long lost little boy that had been me, and I kept sifting through the remains of yesterday for more signs of his silent shadow. I wanted desperately to know his lazy day imaginings and daydreams. In the end, I found only pieces of that child.
I have often been asked why I wrote "Scarred." Pain and shame were my primary motivators. "Scarred" served, at times, as the confessional of both child and charnel house survivor. It took eight years to write. In that time, I had to confront the grit and grime of my childhood trauma, my ensuing shame and embarrassment, and the weight of the choices I had made as an adult survivor. What frightened me most was the sheer horror of sharing my story; exposing these vulnerabilities to the world.
I realized I still felt guilty about my unsuccessful attempts to escape the mountainside fortress, and that made writing hard at times. Yes, I now know that I did all I could and I was just a young boy then. But I had spent years wondering if I had been smarter or stronger, could I have averted my father's abduction attempt, and spared my mother and family the grief of loss?
Thus it took eight years from the conception of a memoir due to the time it took to accustom my back to the sheer scope of shouldering certain realities. The writing process was at times akin to wading through quicksand because my self-revelations were in real time.
The breakthroughs I made, the discoveries of the demons that had shackled their sins to my wrists, and my eventual declarations to break with the bonds of the past and to own my future were being made as I was in the process of reflecting and writing.
From the instant I decided to share my life I began recalling in exacting detail the swell of emotions and the raw memory, from sharing boyhood sniffles to my father's menacing snorts; recreating as close to an absolute truth as possible for myself and the reader.
I mentally composed "Scarred" in its entirety before I began to write. Once I had it pure and refined, a true moving picture of my life's reality, then and only then would I proceed to write each chapter and experience it four times: once factually without emotion, once in the voice of the child I was, once in the voice of the man I had become, and once based on others' views of events.
When it was finished, the hardest task of all was deciding to move forward. But I knew that, In order to reclaim myself and help others do so, I had to be bold and true. The fact that people would read such a personal story both scared the hell out of me and empowered me to be as exacting as a razor with the truth.
I discovered at the midnight end of a 48-hour marathon writing session that I was completely exhausted, totally exhilarated, and momentarily exorcized of all my pain. I had stumbled upon empowering, reflective healing through writing.
Yes, it was horrendous at times. I found that retracing my steps put me right back into the 7-year-old struggling in his father's arms for love, for understanding and for strength. Other days, I eased into my pen and relaxed back in the strong, sure arms of my devoted grandfather, whose presence never left my side.
In time, my soul developed muscles. My sinew breathed with a new sense of spirit. I discovered a sense of freedom. I began to own myself and all I was.
One of the most beneficial healing elements of writing and sharing my life has been the numbers of people I have met in similar pain. Whether it was receiving an email from Canada, someone seeking comfort from a common spirit, an anonymous child crying out for help, or a parent asking about teaching her young to defend themselves. Day in and day out I meet these strangers and I have discovered as survivors we share the same soul. In sharing stories and imparting advice, I heal.
All that remained was the echo of a lost little boy. All that exists now is the man I made -- the survivor. Me.
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